I hate to be the guy to slow down the hype train a little bit. It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve been on the train too. I’ve been the conductor a few times. Even last week when I projected the Lions to finish 12-5 after the schedule release. Still, I can’t help but feel like the Detroit Lions missed out filling an important position this offseason. That position is wide receiver.
As it stands right now, things don’t look too bad on paper. The Lions have one of the best receivers in the game right now in Amon-Ra St. Brown. He’s a sure thing. After him there’s a lot left to be desired. Jameson Williams should be a good player, but we have yet to see that and we’ll have to wait again since he’s been suspended for the first six games of the season.
Then there’s 33-year-old Marvin Jones. He has already began to slow down in his career. He should be a pair of reliable hands out there, but it’s probably a stretch to assume that he is going to play a major role in this team’s receiving game. His production dropped to just 529 receiving yards last year—a 300-yard drop from his previous seasons. This is Year 12 for him. He’ll play and he’ll get targets, but the number of targets he gets should be a lot lower than they’ve ever been in his career.
Then there’s Kalif Raymond and Josh Reynolds. We know what these guys can do . They’re great utility players who are great to have around, but both have pretty average ceilings to their game. Lastly there’s rookie Antione Green. We don’t know much about Green just yet, but he shouldn’t be expected to take a major role in year one.
So where does that leave the Lions receiving corps? I don’t know and that’s the problem. The Lions had chances to add to the group in free agency and the draft and other than the seventh-round pick they used on Green, they stayed away from the position.
The Lions need a guy who can that go out and be their No. 2 guy right away. They just don’t definitively have that right now. That’s worrisome because it could wind up hampering Jared Goff and the Lions offense early in the season, causing them to take a step back where they can’t afford it. DJ Chark may have not been the most productive player last year, but the Lions offense was its most efficient when he was on the field. After losing him to free agency this offseason, the Lions did not adequately replace him.
Plus Detroit has a bit of a long-term problem at receiver. Just Williams, St. Brown and Green are signed beyond 2023.
That said, the Lions did do a good job complementing their wide receiving corps with pass catchers at other positions. Rookie tight end Sam LaPorta, who reportedly looked really good at the rookie mini amp, is an offensive weapon who can do some things with the ball after the catch is made. Then there’s also first-round pick Jahmyr Gibbs. He led the Crimson Tide in receptions last season and is expected to be more of a position-less weapon than a running back. He could get a huge share of targets in 2023.
At the end of the day, maybe it’s not a problem. Still, It just feels like this team needs one more guy. Just one more weapon. A guy that can go out and make contested catches and jump over everyone. It’s easier said than done. It’s not too late. There are still options out there for the Lions.
Not long ago I talked about how the Lions should be all in on a trade for DeAndre Hopkins. At this rate, it seems unlikely the Cardinals trade him, but if Hopkins forces his way out, the price should be cheaper than ever after the team didn’t move him during free agency or the draft. The Lions would have to take on his contract (~$19.5M cap hit for 2023), but sometimes you have to take on stuff like that when you’re gearing for a run at a title. Since the room is full of expiring contracts, the blow Hopkins contract doesn’t hit as hard.
He’s not the only option though. Tee Higgins has been rumored to be on the trading block, though the Bengals have publicly called those rumors “ridiculous.” How many times have we seen teams saying they aren’t going to trade a guy and then they do anyways? It happens all the time.
Those are just two ideas. Both might be unlikely to happen, but you never know. The Lions should get on the phone before camp an seen what other options they have and try to sew things up before the season starts.